Two Michelin starred Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley Hotel recently underwent an extensive refurb including, a name change to Marcus, in the hope of making it a much more relaxed affair. We had a brilliant lunch there a couple of years ago so when I received an invitation to review the new place, I jumped at the chance.
Ever since blaggergate (what? You’ve not heard of blaggergate? Where have you been?!) some of you, including certain restaurant critics, will find the following words, photos and opinions ‘worthless’ as I didn’t pay for my meal. I won’t whittle on too much about the whole thing, as it’s been intelligently summed up here, here and here, but I will say this; surely as a long as a blogger/critic/journalist is honest and makes it clear that they were invited along/comped/treated/bribed then what’s the harm? It’s up to the reader to make up their own mind. Let’s get things straight – contacting a restaurant for a free meal in return of a positive review is wrong. Accepting an invitation to eat a free meal simply isn’t.
Anyway, moving on! The new look Marcus was a rather attractive one; it felt far less austere than it used to be. Gone were the purple felt walls and the champagne trolley and instead were bare tables (possibly too bare?) with crisp white tablecloths, dark wood panelled walls and plenty of natural light.
Some Parmesan and tapioca gougère followed by some fennel and potato bread started things off brilliantly. The little cheesy puffs were really light and totally moreish and the bread was so good we demolished two rounds of the stuff and could have easily done a third.
Menu wise, there was a taster menu priced at £120 or two courses for £60, three for £85 or four for £95. We opted for the latter. There was also a small but much cheaper a la carte available.
I started with the ‘veal belly, frog’s legs (where should the apostrophe go?), snails and wild garlic’ which was a rich and hearty bowl of food. The vibrantly green sauce had a really strong garlicky punch which went beautifully with the soft, tender frog’s legs. A little piece of deep fried breaded veal brain was also delicious and helped add to the richness of it all. I do love a bit of brain.
My gentleman companion went for the ‘foie gras, mango and granola’ which sounded like a bizarre combination of ingredients – granola makes you think of breakfast doesn’t it? In fact, it was a great companion for the fatty foie and sweet mango. And the quality of that foie gras was sublime.
The ‘scallops, cauliflower and cucumber’ was a truly wonderful blend of flavours. Not only did it look like a stunning plate of food, but the finely diced pickled cucumber, along with the sweet cauliflower purée was one of the tastiest things I’ve eaten in a long time.
‘Mackerel, onions, egg’ was far more complex than its description would have you believe. The little piles of chopped egg had been so finely diced that they had the texture of couscous, which was most unusual and the oily mackerel had been blowtorched, giving its skin the most crisp exterior imaginable. Really lovely stuff.
We were then treated to an extra course of ‘turbot, Dorset snails, shallot and gnocchi’, which was a definite highlight. The turbot had a meaty texture yet was still succulent and moist and the snails weren’t balls of rubber which I often find to be the case. There’s something so comforting about gnocchi too.
Both mains were divine; the ‘Herdwick lamb, beetroot and barley’ was a meaty treat but it was the Anjou pigeon that was the real star. It was drenched in a thick sauce that had been made using the blood and offal of the bird, giving it a really strong yet not overpowering flavour. Each part of the pigeon had been cooked to perfection; crisp skin and soft, rare meat and the addition of some tiny roasted potatoes with salty, blistered skins were a brilliant touch – I could have eaten a bowl full of those on their own.
Desserts helped end things on a satisfying note. The ‘warm chocolate, crunch, salted caramel ice cream’ was basically a chocolate fondant covered in cocoa powder – any chocolate lover’s idea of bliss really. I had hoped for a slightly more flamboyant presentation though. The ‘pineapple, pain perdu, coconut’ tasted like a posh Piña Colada – which is never a bad thing. Pain perdu is posh for eggy bread and here, with a mouthful of coconut meringue and sweet pineapple, it was ruddy lovely.
The food we sampled at Marcus was truly outstanding, but it was the service that really made the experience so memorable. The general manager, the sommelier, our waitress, the guy topping up our water; all did their job with such charm and warmth – you might be hard pushed to find a friendlier dining room in London. The new look Marcus has got it bang on the money if you ask me.
I dined as a guest of the restaurant.